Maura Conway, Dublin City University
Prateek Dewan, Indraprastha Institute of Technology Delhi (IIIT-D)
Ponnurangam Kumaraguru, Indraprastha Institute of Technology Delhi (IIIT-D)
Lisa McInerney, Dublin City University
The vast majority of research into violent online political extremism produced to date has focused on the new media practices of violent jihadis. This is unsurprising given that jihadis have significantly grown their online presence since 9/11. Increasing numbers of individuals and groups that advocate violent jihad are known to be using the Internet extensively, both as a tool for spreading their message and, in some instances, attack planning and preparation. Jihadis are not alone amongst violent political extremists in recognising the power of the Net however. The extreme Right’s many variants have a long history of Internet use, dating to the earliest days of the public Internet, and an even longer history of violence and threats of violence against non-whites, ethnic minorities, sexual minorities, and others.
The oldest and most heavily trafficked extreme Right discussion forum is the US-based Stromfront.org (‘White pride worldwide’). Stormfront, founded by former KKK leader Don Black in 1995, presently (March 2012) has some 240,000+ online ‘members’ contributing to 680,000+ threads that together result in a pool of some 7 million individual posts. It is claimed on the site that the most visits to the forum on a single day was 189,334 on 7 December 2011. Given its longevity and popularity in terms of both volume of postings and visitor numbers, Stormfront has been the subject of only a relatively small number of academic papers, all of which analyses are qualitative and thus draw upon just small samples of the forum’s large amount of content. The proposed paper seeks to remedy this by providing an analytical overview of all postings to Stormfront to March 2012 while also contributing analysis of some of the site’s various sub-forums.
The proposed paper will open with a brief history of Stormfront. The analysis contained in the paper will be based upon 300+MBs of cleaned plain-text data; thus section two of the paper will be composed of a description of the data collection process, including various difficulties surmounted therein. Section three will provide an overview of the concepts, issues, and ideas most prevalent on the forum through the identification of word frequencies and the collation of these into frames. A sentiment analysis will also be undertaken and reported upon in this section. Stormfront users’ stated attitudes towards both Adolf Hitler and US President Barack Obama will be the subject of this analysis.
Stormfront has sub-forums targeted at various categories of users. Section four of the paper will describe and analyse the content of those sub-forums targeted at children, women, and users from various geographical regions (e.g. France, Italy, the Netherlands, and Norway), including gauging the levels of positivity and/or negativity towards Hitler and US President Obama amongst these sub-groups. Finally, a description and analysis of the volume and type of postings made by the forums ‘Top 10’ super-posters will also be supplied, along with their sentiments towards Hitler and the US President.
The proposed paper should provide the scholarly community with a broader, but at the same time more nuanced, understanding of the ideas prevalent amongst Stormfront users, particularly their attitudes towards Nazism and their levels of racism, especially as towards black Americans, and potentially also differing attitudes on these issues amongst Stormfront community members on the basis of age, gender, location, and commitment (as measured by number of posts).